After a surprise run to the Western Conference final, the Dallas Mavericks took the first step toward building off that success with an offseason trade that's expected to bring in big man Christian Wood from the Houston Rockets in exchange for Trey Burke, Boban Marjanovic, Marquese Chriss, Sterling Brown, and the 26th overall pick in next week's draft.
With four players and a pick headed across the state, Dallas is giving up quantity but managed to snag a talented and statistically prolific player without sacrificing quality. Although the four players headed to Houston could combine to earn more than $10 million next season, they weren't going to factor into the Mavs' plans: They finished the postseason as Dallas' 11th, 12th, 13th, and 14th men, respectively.
That Dallas was able to turn end-of-bench depth pieces and a late-first-rounder into a player of Wood's caliber is both a significant win for the Mavs and a testament to Wood's lukewarm league-wide value, which has never matched his production.
Wood's a 26-year-old who averaged 19.1 points and 9.9 rebounds on 59.3% true shooting over the last two seasons. He's also set to earn just $14.3 million in the final year of his contract, which would appear to make him one of the NBA's best bargains. Why would a player like that be available for such a paltry return?
That question has dogged Wood his entire career. The former UNLV big man was seen as a lottery-level talent heading into the 2015 draft, but after whispers about his maturity and focus, he wasn't selected. Wood bounced around four different teams over his first four years as a pro - suiting up for only 51 games - before enjoying a breakout 2019-20 season in Detroit that got him paid as a 2020 free agent.
After a sign-and-trade sent him to Houston, Wood's opportunities and production continued to increase, but his reputation didn't adjust.
The Rockets also suspended Wood for one game due to poor behavior during a January loss to Denver. He was reportedly relegated to the bench for the first half for missing a mandatory COVID-19 testing window and then told coaches at halftime that he didn't want to play in the rest of the game. Assistant coach John Lucas reportedly criticized Wood's effort level in the locker room at halftime that night as well.
It's therefore understandable why some might be skeptical of Wood's fit in Dallas, especially considering his lackluster defense. Under Jason Kidd's tutelage, the Mavs have improved in that department, but can a team that relies so heavily on the defensively deficient Luka Doncic afford to add a player who's as indifferent on that end of the floor as Wood?